Say what you want about Donald Trump — you’ve gotta admit, he’s doing what he said he would. Many people, including some of the president’s most fervent detractors, have expressed this sentiment since January 20. Which is odd, since it isn’t really true.
Granted, Trump has made a good-faith effort to implement his radical immigration agenda, despite the objections of many congressional Republicans and federal judges. And it’s true that his early gestures on the issues of foreign aid and policing are right in line with his campaign rhetoric. But Trump didn’t just promise to crack down on immigrants and pretend police violence isn’t a problem — he also vowed to provide health insurance to all Americans; raise taxes on hedge-fund managers; directly negotiate with drug companies over pharmaceutical prices; and maintain Medicaid’s current funding levels.
And he’s doing none of those things.
Trump’s selective memory about his past promises is on full display in his first official budget.
“This is the America First budget,” Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said of the document, on Thursday. “In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words. We went through his speeches. We went through articles that have been written about his policies … and we turned those policies into numbers.”
Some of the budget’s numbers faithfully reflect the president’s words. Trump’s call for a stronger military is well represented in a $54 billion increase to defense spending. His warnings about all the drugs and rapists that Mexico is sending over the border are affirmed by new appropriations for immigration enforcement and border-wall construction. And Trump’s disinterest in climate change and international cooperation are expressed via giant cuts to the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
But many of the president’s less reactionary — and more popular — promises are directly contradicted by his budget proposal. Here are six of the most conspicuous:
(1) We will “free the Earth from the miseries of disease.”
The National Institutes of Health supports most of America’s research into diseases and treatments — and Trump’s plan would slash its funding by $5.8 billion, which is 20 percent of its current budget.
(2) The government will stop wasting money overseas and “rebuild” our inner cities.
Last October in Charlotte, Donald Trump detailed his vision for bringing “urban renewal” to America’s “inner cities.”
“The conditions in our inner cities today are unacceptable,” Trump said, before lamenting that the United States had “wasted $6 trillion on wars in the Middle East that have produced only more terrorism, more death, and more suffering — imagine if that money had been spent at home.”
Trump’s budget funds its military buildup by, among other things, cutting $2 billion from public housing and$300 million from rental assistance, while abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds affordable housing, community recreation centers, and food assistance, among other things.
The budget also cuts job-training programs, legal aid, and home energy subsidies to low-income Americans.
Granted, it’s possible that when Trump said the conditions in our inner cities were “unacceptable,” he meant that America’s public housing is too well-maintained, its urban communities are too well-developed, its poor children are too well-fed, its poor families’ houses are too well-heated, and the rent (for low-income people) is too damn low.
(3) “We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.”
Trump’s budget cuts nearly $500 million from the Department of Transportation’s budget for road projects.
(4) My administration will “promote clean air and water.”
Trump’s budget would abolish the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a popular, bipartisan program that preserves the health of the lakes that eight Midwestern states depend on.
(5) “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
When Trump used this phrase in his inaugural address, he was referring to the working-class voters who “came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
These voters hailed, predominately from what costal elites (supposedly) disdain as “flyover country” — landlocked, rural, small towns.
So, it’s remarkable how much of President Trump’s agenda is devoted to making life worse for poor people in rural America. First, there was his health-care plan, which funds a massive tax cut for the rich by radically reducing health-insurance subsidies to low-income Americans — particularly those who live in rural areas.
Trump’s broader budget rains further pain on our nation’s “forgotten men and women.”
The president proposes slashing $4.7 billion from the Department of Agriculture; cutting more than $500 million from Rural Development; eliminating the Rural Business-Cooperative Service; and abolishing the Appalachian Regional Commission, which promotes economic development and infrastructure in poor rural areas.
Finally, the budget reduces much of rural America to literal “flyover country”: The proposal cuts subsidies to rural airports, which make it possible for commercial airliners to fly to low-population areas. Per the New York Times:
With the cost per passenger so high, Mr. Trump’s budget argues that some of these communities are close enough to major airports that they do not need their own or that they “could be served by other existing modes of transportation.”
To be fair, when Trump said that the “forgotten” people of this country “will be forgotten no longer,” he could have meant that his administration would remember to make their health-care more expensive, transportation less accessible, and communities less well-developed.
(6) America will eliminate its national debt “over a period of eight years.”
Despite all these cuts, Trump’s budget would still increase the deficit by $488 billion.